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Welsh winter: part one

Mon, January 21, 2013

My first trip out into the mountains in winter conditions this season was with Jen on the Snowdon Horseshoe. It was a stunning, clear and windless day with snow down to Pen y Pass. This classic ridge walk includes Crib Goch, Garnedd Ugain, Snowdon and y Lliwedd and is a fantastic outing that travels through some breathtaking scenery, however its not to be underestimated.

The route starts off on the PYG track and is very well defined. It is often well defined even in heavy snow as long as you are not one of the first people walking up the mountain. When you reach a point where you can see down onto the other side of the mountain there is a path junction where the path to Crib Goch is the one going up to the right. After a while this path becomes less defined and you need to pick your way up the rocky ground, often using your hands for balance. It was at this point that we felt that an axe and crampons were needed as the snow was very hard and there were patches of ice about. A slip from the ridge would be very serious. It is very important that you are happy with how to use an axe and crampons before attempting a day like the Snowdon horseshoe. Techniques should be practiced on less serious ground before attempting a ridge such as Crib Goch.

The ridge itself is stunning as long as you have a head for heights. It is knife edge in places and very exposed. We had impressive views over to the Trinity face of Snowdon where we were trying to make out people climbing the gullies. At the end of the knife edge ridge are whats know as the pinnacles. The brave will attempt to stay on the true ridge by going over these pinnacles but it is very common to go around these on the left. This still takes in some very serious ground where hands/axe are definitely needed. Eventually you reach the bwlch where Garnedd Ugain rises up in front of you. The main difficulties are over here but there is still a little hands on scrambling before reaching the summit. From here easy walking leads down to the Llanberis track then up again to the summit of Snowdon. We had the ridge all to ourselves and it always seems a little strange on days like these to arrive on the summit and see the crowds who have climbed Snowdon on the more well-trodden paths.

After a well earned lunch break on the summit it was time to continue. The path down towards Bwlch y Saethau (pass of the arrows in English) is another very serious area of the mountain. It is steep and loose and needs some careful thought as you descend.. Then its time to relax a little bit more on the track up to y Lliwedd. The path zig zags its way up the ridge to the first of the y Lliwedd summits with no major difficulites then eventually continues down to Llyn Llyddaw.

Distance: 11km
Height gain: 910m
Highest point: 1085m
Approximate time: 6 hours

Crib Goch

Crib Goch winter

Looking at Snowdon

Snowdon in winter